I don’t usually write political blogs. There are a number of good reasons for that, not the least of which is that nobody really cares what I think—and they shouldn’t. But I’m breaking my own rule today because of Mary, a friend of mine. Mary recently commented on Facebook about me ignoring her political posts, and she’s wrong. I don’t ignore them at all; I simply don’t respond to them.
Perhaps I should explain.
Mary and I would seem to be about as far apart as two people can possibly be, according to most people’s assumptions. What I love about Mary, however, is that she and I agree far more than we disagree, and we have actually changed each other’s thinking on more than one occasion. Mary is an African-American school teacher in an underprivileged urban school district. I am your typical white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant, gun owning, hard-nosed businessman from the Northeast. We have known each other since the sixth grade, and she is one of the smartest people I know. She’s usually wrong (sorry, Mary, I couldn’t resist!), but I always pay attention when she has something to say. She has helped me to understand issues I didn’t even know were issues, and for that, I owe her. Anyway, if you don’t care for my opinion on this current political issue, please blame Mary; it’s her fault.
Recently, the NFL has been in the news because players are sitting, kneeling, and linking arms during the playing of our national anthem to protest injustice and the treatment of African-Americans. It began with Colin Kaepernick, who was the first to take a knee. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said in 2016. This year, more and more players have been taking a knee both in protest and in support of Kaepernick. It’s become so controversial, even President Trump has weighed in on it.
This will not be a very long blog because I don’t have too much to say—just this: The players have an absolute right to peaceful protest, and I have no problem with the actions they’ve taken. I also believe that they are employees, and their employers have an absolute right to sit them, trade them, fine them, or simply fire them if they don’t conform to the terms of their employment. As Dr. Phil once said, if you chose the action, you chose the consequence. Pretty simple stuff.
Here’s what the players don’t get:
I know protests. I grew up in the 60s, where protesting was a way of life. Back then, we learned what worked and what didn’t work, and that’s what the players have to figure out. The first week of kneeling was very effective. It started a national discussion of the problems we still face, and that’s a good thing.
When the players continued to protest, however, they angered millions of people who viewed their actions as disrespecting the flag, the military, and the police. The players said their protest had nothing to do with that, but it was too late. They’d already pissed off too many people, and the NFL owners were worried that it might start to affect their business. I think they’re right.
If the players had knelt the first time and then turned their time and energy toward finding solutions, I think most people would have gone along. But they didn’t do that. They kept slamming their protest in people’s faces, and people don’t like that. The players are now starting to be seen as spoiled brat millionaires who hate America.
The players built a platform for change when they first took a knee, but they destroyed the very platform they’d created by not taking their legitimate protest to the next level when they had a chance. Now it’s too late, and that’s a shame, because it’s a dialogue we need to have, and the players might have been the catalyst for it.
Maybe they’ve been hit in the head too many times.